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A House becomes Home

Front Door

The construction door is gone.  In its’ place is a beautiful, reclaimed wood, front door that opens to say ‘welcome home’ to Desert Rain owners, Barbara Scott and Tom Elliott. It has been a long journey from their idea and dream of building an extreme green home to this week of moving in. After nearly five years of dreaming, planning, purchasing property, designing, permits, redesigning and construction – Desert Rain and the adjacent accessory dwelling unit are ready for occupancy.

The walkway and Miro wall create a guide to the front door.

The walkway and Miro wall create a guide to the front door.

 

 

Ground-breaking began in August 2011. Striving to meet the stringent guidelines and the seven petals of the Living Building Challenge created hurdles and delays far beyond what an owner or contractor would encounter with traditional construction. The Desert Rain team has embraced the challenge and found the answers to keep the project moving forward to completion of a livable home.

Tom, Lee, and Anna tackle another trailer load.

Tom, Lee, and Anna tackle another trailer load.

One obstacle remains before Barb and Tom can begin the one year auditing phase that will monitor the water, energy and air quality systems to show that Desert Rain meets the LBC criteria for certification. The blackwater system (waste water treatment from toilets and the dishwasher) has not yet been approved. Plans for the system were in the process of design and engineering well before construction began.  After many months of research, design, and working with the regulatory agencies involved in permits a proposal for the blackwater system should be ready to submit this week. (Stay tuned for more information in a future blog). In the meantime, Tom and Barb will be utilizing city systems that were required to be in place for the initial permit process.

Tom and Anna carry the infamous 'blue bucket'. The bucket holds thousands of nails that were saved from the deconstruction of the original two houses. Barb hopes to see the nails used in an art project.

Tom and Anna carry the infamous ‘blue bucket’. The bucket holds thousands of nails that were saved from the deconstruction of the original two houses. Barb hopes to see the nails used in an art project.

Living in a net zero water and net zero energy home will require a commitment to lifestyle that Barb and Tom believe they can embrace. With the bleeding edge design, construction, and systems in place Desert Rain is not an ordinary house. The mechanical room, monitoring equipment, solar panels, and technology are highly visible – a daily reminder to be conscious of meeting the LBC requirements.

 

Living a normal life within the parameters of the LBC may be a challenge. In a recent interview with the  Bend Bulletin, Barb said, “We don’t know how this works because we’ve never done it, nor has anyone else”. Barb and Tom are confident they will find the balance between the mechanical and technical elements that are imperative to a functioning house and the LBC, and the comfort and beauty that will make Desert Rain House their home.

A lone chair exemplifies the activity of moving. Where does it go? Where is its' place?

A lone chair exemplifies the activity of moving. Where is its’ place? Where is its’ home within the home?

 

Barb stops to excitedly see a favorite item being unloaded.

Barb stops her moving of boxes to excitedly see a favorite item being unloaded.

With the chaos of moving well underway, Barb and Tom are turning house to home.  The harmony of home and extreme green building will be created when: a favorite wooden salad bowl finds a place in the Forest Stewardship Council certified cabinet; a steaming cup of tea waits on the salvaged, walnut countertop; an old farm table from Montana reflects the sunlight streaming through the triple pane, energy-efficient glass doors; treasured art pieces grace the walls that are covered with American Clay. When the view from each window becomes familiar; when shoes are parked in the entryway; when friends and family are welcomed with warm hugs; when music and laughter flow to the ceilings; when sense of place brings a sense of sanctuary – Desert Rain House will no longer be a project. Desert Rain House will become –home.

The beauty of the FSC wood cabinets, the salvaged walnut shelf, and a well-known salad bowl create 'home'.

The beauty of the FSC wood cabinets, the salvaged walnut shelf, and a well-known salad bowl create ‘home’.

Congratulations Tom and Barb!   May your pioneering spirit, your commitment to values, your belief in the Living Building Challenge, and your love of earth and life – bring you HOME.

 

 

Progress in Pictures

Every trip to the Desert Rain site reveals changes and surprises as many aspects of the project are coming together and nearing completion. Color and texture abounds in the materials inside and out. The landscaping is underway with pavers, boulders, and gravel being installed. It is getting easier to walk about the site as holes get filled and ground is leveled. Electrician, Mike Wagnon has been diligently installing the LED lighting system throughout the project creating a warm glow. The myrtlewood flooring in the main house is being sanded. Many of the cabinets and built-ins are in place. Tile is up and grouted. Browse the photos for a current peek at the progress. We are working on a new photo Gallery page for the website that will keep you updated. Please check back and visit our Gallery/ New Progress.

The kitchen area in the ADU with FSC wood cabinets, salvaged myrtlewood flooring, and recycled backsplash tiles.

The kitchen area in the ADU with FSC wood cabinets, salvaged myrtlewood flooring, and recycled backsplash tiles.

The living space in the main house showing the reclaimed wood ceiling in the glow of the LED lighting.

The living space in the main house showing the reclaimed wood ceiling in the glow of the LED lighting.

The den in the main house with American Clay wall covering, salvaged myrtlewood flooring, and LED lighting in place.

The den in the main house with American Clay wall covering, salvaged myrtlewood flooring, and LED lighting in place.

LED lighting system currently being added in the dining area.

LED lighting system currently being added in the dining area.

LED flower lights create ambience in the guest bath with light reflecting in the recycled, glass tiles.

LED flower lights create ambience in the guest bath with light reflecting in the recycled, glass tiles.

Appliances are in place in the main house kitchen. FSC wood cabinets and recycled material tiles.

Appliances are in place in the main house kitchen. FSC wood cabinets and recycled material tiles.

Hardscaping is underway outside with installation of pavers and driveway.

Hardscaping is underway outside with installation of pavers and driveway.

The south patio with basalt steps, boulders, and pavers in place.

The south patio with basalt steps, boulders, and pavers in place.

Attention to detail: the pavers have been cut with graceful curves to accent the boulders.

Attention to detail: the pavers have been cut with graceful curves to accent the boulders.

The first art in the garden is placed at the memorial planting for the ponderosa tree that was removed before construction.

The first art in the garden is placed at the memorial planting for the ponderosa tree that was removed before construction.

Beautiful contrast of earth tones, light and reclaimed wood on the west patio.

Beautiful contrast of earth tones, light and reclaimed wood on the west patio.

Excavators and people don't seem to bother the resident buck as he takes an afternoon siesta under the apple tree.

Excavators and people don’t seem to bother the resident buck as he takes an afternoon siesta under the apple tree.

Forward Motion

Weather here in Central Oregon changes on a whim. Several days of near 90 degree days last week make it difficult to remember the downpours of rain we had a few short weeks ago. The Desert Rain site was awash with puddles and mud when Barb and Tom arrived to give a tour.  Last night we had a frost. Change represents motion. Desert Rain is seeing significant changes as the project moves forward.

Barb in rain 2

Through rain and shine, challenges, frustrations, rewards, and successes – Barb and Tom and the Desert Rain team keep moving forward.

downspout

Water – essential to Desert Rain meeting the goals of the Living Building Challenge.

Rain is good for Desert Rain. To meet the criteria for the Water Petal of the Living Building Challenge, water must be collected on site for all domestic and irrigations use, including drinking water. Desert Rain is outfitted with rainwater collection systems on all of the buildings. The water will be harvested and stored in a 35,000 gallon cistern. Wastewater must also be processed on site. Good news came today in the form of permit approval from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for a composting toilet facility. There will also be a bio-reactive, constructed wetland to treat the graywater for use in irrigation.  The water permit is still pending with the City of Bend.

Juan, with Elite Plastering working on the second coat on the garage.

Juan, with Elite Plastering working on the second coat on the garage.

The base coat and second coat of plaster have been applied. A third and final, colored, finish coat will be added soon. The exterior of the structures are under wraps during the plastering process so the curing can be controlled.

house in wraps

Still under wraps. There will be much excitement when the final coat of plaster is complete and the exterior revealed.

What is happening under all the wrapping?

Tile in guest bathroom

Jason is tenacious with the tedious job of tiling all of the shower walls with the crushed glass tiles from FireClay. Doug Cahail is working diligently in the master bathroom.

 

 

Tilers, Doug Cahail and Jason have been diligently working on installing the FireClay ‘Crush’ tiles in the bathrooms of both the ADU and main house. ‘Debris’ tile from FireClay was used for the backsplashes and shower in the ADU. ‘Debris’ is comprised of more than 70% recycled waste, including recycled toilets.

 

 

High Desert Hardwood Flooring crew, Sonny and John, have installed the salvaged myrtlewood floors in both the ADU and the main house. In the ADU they have been sanded and finished with, OSMO, a green, wood- wax product.

myrtlewood finished

Oregon Myrtlewood flooring – the picture says it all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gabriel Dansky and crew with Dansky Handcrafted of Bend, have been installing more cabinet bases in the dining and laundry areas. Installation of the doors on the kitchen cabinets is also underway. The cabinet doors are made from Forest Stewardship certified wood and finished with OSMO wood-wax.

cabinet doors

The beauty of all the elements blending together; reclaimed wood on the ceiling, FSC wood on the cabinets, American Clay plaster on the walls, recycled FireClay tile for the backsplash, and cement countertops from Cement Elegance.

OLLI tour

A group from the Osher Lifelong Learning Center listen to an introduction from Tom about the project before they make their way up the ‘mail trail’ to the house.

Meanwhile, tours have been ongoing with groups and individuals interested in green building and the cutting edge elements of Desert Rain. Recently a group from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, partnered with the University of Oregon, visited Desert Rain. A notable visitor, Denis Hayes and his wife, Gail Boyer-Hayes also toured the site. Hayes was the coordinator for the first Earth Day Celebration in 1970. He is currently the president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation based in Seattle.  The Bullitt Foundation opened a new center in Seattle this Earth Day in 2013. The facility was built to meet the standards of the Living Building Challenge. Hayes and his wife hope to build a LBC home of their own.

tour with Denis Hayes

Denis Hayes, coordinator of the very first Earth Day, tours Desert Rain with his wife Gail Boyer-Hayes. Tom, Barb, and James Fagan, DR builder, talk about the elements of the extreme, green project.

Back outside – Keith Krewson with Central Oregon Construction Contractors has returned to lay and pour the forms for the ‘Miro’ wall. The curved wall begins on the exterior, west end of the house, continues through the structure, emerges from the east end and will eventually, gracefully encircle a courtyard.  A wall in flowing motion – a project in motion – flowing forward!

DSCF5238

Keith Krewson and crew have been involved with the Desert Rain project since the early phase of construction. They have done all the concrete work; the foundation, the cistern, the interior, cement slab floor, and now the exterior ‘Miro’ wall.

Progress in Pictures

When a fleet of construction vehicles are parked on site, I know to expect a flurry of activity inside and out. Sub-contractors from many different trades are working to bring Desert Rain towards completion.

Brent from McKernan Enterprises was busy operating the excavator outside to re-grade the site. Last week he was digging trenches and removing rock to install sewer line.  The water and waste-water systems are still pending. The city  requires that Desert Rain is hooked up to the city sewer. The Living Building Challenge requires that all waste-water and storm water be processed on site.  Plans have been re-designed and re-submitted. The current plan for a composting facility with a solar evaporator is waiting approval.

Brent with McKiernan Enterprises re-grades the site after trenching the sewer line.

Brent with McKernan Enterprises re-grades the site after trenching the sewer line.

All Phase Electric Service continues work on the electrical system installing underground conduit and new disconnect panel boxes in the garage. The conduit is fiberglass instead of the commonly used, PVC that is a Living Building Challenge Red List item.

The electrical conduit running from the garage to the mechanical room of the main house.

The electrical conduit running from the garage to the mechanical room of the main house.

Mike Wagnon with A.P.E.S. works in the trench to install electrical conduit.

Mike Wagnon with A.P.E.S. works in the trench to install electrical conduit.

 

 

 

 

 

Sheetrock is installed, taped, and mudding completed. The American clay plaster has been completed in the accessory dwelling unit and work has begun in the main house.

The beauty of the American clay plaster on the walls in the ADU.

The beauty of the American clay plaster on the walls in the ADU.

Jeff with Guy Pettit Drywall finishes up the last of the sheetrock mud.

Jeff with Guy Pettit Drywall finishes up the last of the sheetrock mud.

 

Josh with Green Apple Construction mixes up another batch of American Clay Plaster for application in the main house.

Josh with Green Apple Construction mixes up another batch of American Clay Plaster for application in the main house.

 

 

 

 

Framers are installing reclaimed lumber on the interior ceilings of the main house. The lumber was salvaged from a deconstructed potato barn nearby, in Prineville, Oregon and re-milled. It is the same material that was used to cover the exterior soffits creating visual continuity from the outside, in.

Framers, Scott and Jeremy, installing the reclaimed lumber on the ceiling.

Framers, Scott and Jeremy, installing the reclaimed lumber on the ceiling.

Jeremy works in the 'living room' of Desert Rain.

Jeremy works in the ‘living room’ of Desert Rain.

The ceiling of the main house with the reclaimed wood in place - simply, beautiful!

The ceiling of the main house with the reclaimed wood in place – simply, beautiful!

From bare ground, to excavation, foundation, framing, roofing, plumbing, electrical, and all the elements of finish work – it is an amazing process to watch the transformation of materials to a liveable home. The intensity of the Desert Rain project is increased with the requirements of the Living Building Challenge. The house is emerging as a home more and more each day with finishing details. Stay tuned for the story of the American clay plaster.

Wrapping Up April at Desert Rain

April 27, 2012.

It’s the last week of April. While wondering, as ever, where another month has gone I also realized that this time next year Barb and Tom will be living in a complete and fully functioning Desert Rain. No one wants to speed up time, but in this long process I’m sure it’s wonderful for them to see the very visible and measurable progress being made toward building a home that’s been so long in the planning.

The River Roofing crew is steadily making its way around the perimeter of Desert Rain, installing steel covering on the fascia. The steel is actually on site in rolls. When a new piece is needed for a length of fascia it is pressed and cut right next to the home.

The cistern is now standing free of the concrete forms. This huge underground structure is where precipitation captured on site will be stored and filtered, and eventually pumped back to the home for use as potable water. Much work remains to be done on the cistern–pumps, filters, tubes and more concrete. But I’m continually fascinated by the engineering of and steady progress made on this structure.

The concrete forms have been removed from the 35,000 gallon cistern. April 27, 2012.

We’ll end the week with a video of some of today’s roofing activity: